Singles Going Steady 5/1/2013: Innovation Is For Kids!

A comic review article by: Daniel Elkin, Danny Djeljosevic, Tyler Gross, Jason Sacks, Shawn Hill

 

 

Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup.

 

Not everything gets covered in Singles, so here are the comics that got reviewed separately:

 

 

East of West #2

(Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Frank Martin; Image)

 

 

When reviewing East of West #1, CB's Nick Hanover called this title "one of Hickman's slow burns," and he compared the book to Bowie's Station to Station. Issue #2 continues to languidly climb the wooden match, and, to continue the Bowie metaphor, Hickman has just released Low. Dragotta is Brian Eno, giving shape to the ideas. Frank Martin is Iggy Pop, throwing in the firebombs just by being around.

 

 

The experiment that is East of West continues and grows in complexity. Issue 2 moves confidently, both writer and artist are laying down a new groove. Pieces begin to be put together while new questions arise. War, Famine and Conquest start taking matters into their own hands. Death, all in white, he is constant... or is nothing, starts making deals. Antonia LeVay (seriously Hickman, you got balls) becomes President. The Chosen still are at work trying to orchestrate the end of the world. The Message is slowly being transmitted. We end with "A cup, of a cup. A chalice, of a chalice," and with that even more enigmatic conundrums are raised.

Were this anyone else but Hickman, I think we all would have thrown this series into the bargain bin by now. It is dense and seemingly impenetrable and a reader has to have faith that the author is not taking them down a dark tunnel only to abandon them when the journey becomes to difficult or exhaustion sets in. Hickman has enough cred now to warrant following him through his spelunking. We trust that he knows where he is going and, when we get there, we'll be glad he was our guide. It's a pretty crazy gamble -- ballsy in fact -- but you have to admire Hickman for it.

 

 

Dragotta continues to be the perfect compliment for Hickman's world building. He even figured out a way to make three little kids seem almost cute at one point, then scary as all fuck in the next moment. Also, Frank Martin colors are just …. well, just look at them. Pretty spectacular work, maybe even the highlight of the entire book.

 

 

So get this book. You need to be reading it. Hickman's playing the long game with this series and the payoff is bound to be immense. It's a Hickman book. You can bank on it. Hickman ain't no Charles Keating.

As for issue three, we've still got a long way to go on this wooden match -- and hey, didn't Bowie release Heroes after Low? Nuff said.

- Daniel Elkin

 

Adventure Time #15

(Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, Lisa Moore, Jeremy Sorese; BOOM!)

 

 

So here's the state of the medium right now: a comic book based on a cartoon -- albeit a cartoon staffed by some serious comics talent -- is doing more innovative, fun, clever things than… pretty much every other comic currently coming out. That's not a complaint, but we have an industry and reader culture that looks down on both kids' books and licensed comics, so I guess we're getting the Spider-Man comics we deserve while the cool kids are having fun with bright colors and characters made of dessert snacks.

In Adventure Time #15, a magic spell takes away Finn and Jake's ability to speak verbally, resulting in them developing the ability to use tiny pictorials to represent what they're trying to express. It's a really clever gag, one perfectly suited for comics, that the creative team has a ton of fun with.

 

 

And, by the way, this is all while staying on-model to the show's signature art style, though Jeremy Sorese's striking back-up story gives us the kind of excitement we can only get from stylistic deviation.

I've written before how excited I am that there's this weird licensed comic blowing kids' minds, but I'm even more excited for the generation of comics creators who are growing up on Adventure Time to take over and do something different because a stupid licensed comic showed them that people can actually have fun making these things.

- Danny Djeljosevic

 

Miniature Jesus #1

(Ted McKeever; Image/Shadowline)

 

 

Let's just get one thing straight -- if you start a comic with a Walt Whitman poem, you've got my attention. Add to this comic a musing on the nature of morality and an exploration of religion as a concept, and I'll probably ask it out on a date. Then add the fact that this book was created by Ted McKeever and I'll probably go down and one knee and propose marriage.

Miniature Jesus #1 is my new wife.

 

 

Ted McKeever makes great comics. They are smart, clever, well-executed, thought-provoking, entrancing, off-the-wall, poignant, insane, touching, masterful, and a host of other positive adjectives that, as I have lost my thesaurus, I could spew here. I understand he's also a really nice guy.

Anyway, let's talk Miniature Jesus #1. This is a book in which nothing is wasted either in art or in intent. Every panel contains a doctoral thesis of ideas, symbols, heft -- from an open mailbox in front of an abandoned motel, to Star of David crosshatching on the window of an open door, McKeever is begging you to go deep, to read with your eyes open and your brain engaged. And this is only on the first page for goodness sake.

And then McKeever has the audacity to quote the first stanza of Whitman's "As I Ponder'd in Silence" in which the poet wrestles with himself as to his own intent, a conversation with "the genius of old poets" who admonish him that there is only one theme fit for poetry

And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers 

 

 

Oh my. We're in for quite a ride here, aren't we? Then again, this is a McKeever comic and you should expect as much.

After 26 days of self-imposed exile (wait... wasn't Jesus supposed to be 26 when he was crucified), the main character, a recovering alcoholic, has a conversation with the rotting carcass of a cat about the Egyptian Goddess of Booze, and then he confronts what may be the very demon of alcohol who reminds him of this drinking past. This then leads the character to question where the "anti-demon who sits on (his) shoulder, whispering words of support and fortitude in (his) ear" has gone? The answer to this question takes up the rest of this book. Perhaps. And if the answer is what I think it is, Miniature Jesus is going to be an amazing journey.

The theme is war, after all. The making of perfect soldiers.

 

 

If issue one is any indication, though, McKeever is going to make you do a lot of the leg work to get where he wants to take you, and it won't be a casual stroll. This is a book you're going to read and re-read and then, probably, read again and, each time you do, you will find another little clue as to what you need to know. By the time you figure it all out, though, issue two will be out and that will probably take you somewhere else. This is a McKeever book, after all.

While Miniature Jesus ain't no Chocolate Jesus, it's still good enough for me.

- Daniel Elkin

 

Young Avengers #4

(Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton, Matthew Wilson; Marvel)

 

 

Marvel seems to be letting their creators run wild on their properties, and (creatively speaking) it's been paying off. Hawkeye finds Matt Fraction doing the most Matt Fractiony comic he could make short of Casanova itself and Rick Remender is going so Fear Agent on Captain America that I'm shocked Marvel editorial even allows it.Young Avengers is a strong contender for my favorite book because, depending on who you are, chances are I like Phonogram more than I like you and the guys who made that are making this one and people forgot to tell them they're making a Marvel comic.

 

 

The first six story pages of Young Avengers #4 hits Best of the Year status as Gillen McKelvie create a two-page Chris Ware chart of Marvel Boy fighting goo creatures in a club that -- piggybacking off the Adventure Time thing -- only comics could do. It's clever and funny, but for someone who cares deeply about the medium, it's goddamn exciting to see a talented creative team going above the call of a page rate to deliver a moment that's had everyone talking about it in the week since the issue came out.

 

 

The above bit is pretty underrated, though -- Marvel Boy does a cool pose and a one-liner, and we freeze frame Casanova: Avaritia style into the title page.

This week had some horrible shit happen in the comics world, but if you're just looking at the creative output 2013 is a good year to be excited about comics again.

- Danny Djeljosevic

 

Mind MGMT #10

(Matt Kindt; Dark Horse)

 

 

Let's start with some honesty. Because you and I both know this is the Internet and everyone on the Internet is always honest all the time no matter what. Honest. First off, I have not read the first nine issues of Mind MGMT. Secondly, I had no idea what this comic was about when I first read it. The cover is vague enough that I didn't really even have a guess.  Someone is confronting two adulterous lovers? A rapist is on the prowl and this guy is trying to shoot him with a pretend bullet? The third member of a threesome has arrived late and he's showing him how she likes it? As you can tell, I enjoyed speculating.

 

 

Why did I choose to review this? Because I am a big fan of the band MGMT (Congratulations mostly). Yup.  I confess all superficiality. I still read the cover as "Mind Em-Gee-Em-Tee" instead of "Mind Management." I'm so sorry I've failed you, Internet. From here on out, I vow to do better. Maybe. Whatever.

How much has been said about the accessibility of mainstream comics? Too much? Do I have to repeat the ol' adage, "every comic is someone's first?" I'm pretty sure that's been said a million times. I know most of these accessibility-type questions refer to superhero comics, but the idea that comics in general aren't accessible has been floating around in the popular conscious for some time now. I may not be green to the medium, but I'm quite green to this issue, so I have to ask myself, is it accessible? 

My short answer is: sort of. I think the key thing I've learned here is that you don't really have to know what's going on to know that something is good. For most of the issue, I was overwhelmed with the thought of, "Well, I don't know what that is about, but I like it." I think the true genius of this issue is the way the beginning serves as such a complete short story that clearly fits into a larger narrative. I'm not even talking about the issue as a whole fitting into a larger narrative of the series; I'm talking about pages 2 through 12. This first part of the story seems like a fantastic short story in a comic anthology, truly complete and compelling. When we leave this sequence the story starts picking up plot threads (I'm assuming?) and I sort of came out of it a little bit, but not drastically so.

 

 

So much of what makes this issue able to be readily picked up is the visual style. Artistically, the inking is like rainfall, begging your eyes to cascade down the page, like you're hearing it falling outside your window. Wonderfully noir. This perfectly suits the captions, which are brief and to the point. Since our main character is a mind reader, the thoughts of other characters run down the left edge of each page, for a effect I guess. These I didn't really care for. They were sort of like the narration in Blade Runner, something that creeps in because sometimes writers are afraid of the silence. Though I didn't find these captions to be clever enough to merit their existence, I don't mean that to say that as an insult to the writer in any way, quite the opposite in fact. This story is so well-written and drawn that the thoughts of ancillary characters just aren't necessary; we know what they're thinking even when we don't. It seems like someone is always talking about films dealing in image, television in dialogue, and novels in thought. In this way, I feel like Mind MGMT #10 reads more like your average book without pictures, slow, deliberative. It works wonders for the story. 

No one is paying me to say this, but I'm such a fan of creators making money that I have to plug for a book if I like it. So buy this issue. I'm putting the Official Comics Bulletin Stamp of Approval on this issue, so if you don't like it, we'll refund your purchase. 

Aside: I've been asked to inform you to that no such stamp exists and that Comics Bulletin will not give you your money back. I'm sorry again.

- Tyler Gross

 

Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #6

(Brandon Seifert, Lukas Ketner; Image/Skybound)

 

 

 

Since Zack Davisson and I will be doing a full review over this series when Image publishes the trade, and since you're probably not going to jump onboard this series for the final issue of this miniseries, let me just keep this review quick. This comic hit all kinds of happy glands for me. The supernatural action is awesome, the mystical villains are horrible and gross and so goddamn cool, Lukas's art displays his usual Loony Tunes meets Marvel Comics style that makes the whole book a rhapsody of breathless thrills and excitement, every character gets their perfect moment of spotlight in this comic, the book turns on a scene where the good guy urinates in everybody's water, and wow I think I have a serious crush on Catrina Macabrey, the mysterious sexy MILF of mysticism.

 

 

So Brandon and Lukas, when does the next mini premiere? Can you have the new Witch Doctor book done by next week? Please?

- Jason Sacks

 

Journey Into Mystery #651

(Kathryn Immonen, Pepe Larraz, Jordie Bellaire; Marvel)

 

 

From Marvel's best female-fronted comic that isn't Captain Marvel, we get a pretty enjoyable one-off issue about a giant wolf god. But I'm mostly concerned with the art of Pepe Larraz this time around.

 

 

Going by his work on The Mighty Thor, I was pretty sure I wasn't into Larraz's sketchy Pascal Ferry thing -- it didn't help that Frank D'Armata was the colorist on that run -- but in Journey #651 his linework is much more assured and his characters and acting much more expressive and animated. It's a perfect fit for a story that prominently features Volstagg (who is a cartoon balloon man) and Jordie Bellaire's colors (as always) continue hitting MVP status. Part of the greatness is the way she colors those featureless backgrounds.

- Danny Djeljosevic

 

The High Ways #4

(John Byrne, Leonard O'Grady; IDW)

 

 

 

Can I make sense of this series now it's over? It's based around several surprise reveals and false identities, with several characters who aren't what they seem, and several who end up in a quite different place than they began. Byrne's been doing that since Next Men (and he learned it from all those opening dream sequences in X-Men, thank you Claremont), but this one is jerkier than most. It seemed to change direction with each issue, though a few characters remained constant and the art was consistently impressive.

 

 

The High Ways is a mix of a variety of Byrne-fetishes: junky looking space-tech vs. alien-smooth streamlining. Computer-generated model kits inserted into the action. Not so much actual aliens but a solar system that has been filled with humankind, some of it quite intent on transforming itself in order to survive the range of harsh climates. There's a lot of space suits, a lot of jumping off into vacuum, a fair amount of sexuality and a lot of questionable morality the further afield humanity spreads itself. As such, it's two-parts Heinlein, one part Delany, and the rest is somewhere between Thunderbirds and Space:1999. These are a boy's own tales of space, but, par for the course for Byrne, the most interesting character is a black woman, the experienced pilot her friends call Jonesy. She also has the most colorful space suit.

 

 

Marilyn Jones, her captain Jack Cagney, and novice Eddie Wallace begin the series taking a routine trip to Jupiter, where they meet a crew who pretends not to be aware of their flight or their purpose. In trying to protect their ship, they take in a promiscuous woman with platinum hair, Megan. In the third she takes them to meet a mad scientist with plans of conquest. In the fourth all the double agents reveal themselves, and it's grubbier than expected: drug-running, mutiny, poison gas, cyborgs and finally it may all have been a government alliance that resulted in Jonesy getting her own ship. Everyone has their own agenda on the High Ways, and nobody is to be trusted. This series was messy and fun and good looking, but you wouldn't really want to let it use your phone.

- Shawn Hill

 

Batman Incorporated #10

(Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Jason Masters, Andrei Bressan, Nathan Fairbairn; DC)

 

 

Before we get this thing under way, I need to say that I give absolutely zero fucks about DC's WTF cover month. Zero. Fucks. If it were possible to give negative fucks, I would, but everyone knows you either give one fuck or you give zero. It's common sense. Pin-up covers are stupid too though, so I dunno. So are full-in artists.  Anyways…

 

 

Onto the main event: Batman Incorporated #10 seems to have less fervor than previous issues. We had the death of Damian, we had the follow up, but this issue seems to serve primarily as a gathering of all the king's horses and all the king's men. By nature, this makes the story a little bit more plain, but even beyond that there's a sort of… calmness. Scenes aren't as dynamically framed (with the exception of a great We3 homage); cuts between sequences are sharper. The issue does a great job of preparing, but that's mostly what it is, preparation.

 

 

I'd like to derail for a second to talk about The Heretic. I really like him as a character. Maybe it's just that I like clones (now is when I would normally make a secret confession for my love of Ben Reilly, but I would never be so stupid as to give up all credibility). Clones are such a fun concept in fiction because they are you, but they aren't. It's this idea of someone walking around with your face, speaking with your voice, but existing separately from you, thinking apart from you. Like Face/Off, but you know, not shitty. And of course, there's the age-old angle of using clones to play out epic nature v. nurture throwdowns.

 

 

I'm wondering if Morrison will tread down this road; it seems like he might. For me, The Heretic is another fallen son of the Batman Family. We've had all these imperfect versions of Batman throughout Morrison's run, all the way back to the beginning with the Three Ghosts of Batman. Then you have Darkseid's Bat-clones, Talia's Man-Bats, Doctor Hurt in Thomas Wayne's Batman outfit, all wolves in bat-clothing. To some degree, you could even see Dick Grayson as one of these imperfect Batmen, eventually resigning, proving there's really only one. All these versions seem to be ways Batman could have gone wrong, the Heretic being the most recent (and perhaps most emotional) example. We saw in RIP: the Lost Chapter and Batman: the Return that the Batman was shaped by three symbols: the bell, the gun, and pearls, respectively, perseverance, loss, and compassion. The Heretic is Batman without legacy, future without hope. Born not of pearls, but within the belly of a whale, not shown loss with by bullets, but creating it by sword. If Batman only truly became such when he adopted Robin, the Heretic became his dark twin by killing Robin. For all these reasons, weighty, symbolic, metaphorical, I just can't wait to see where the character ends up. Redeemer? Destroyer? 

 

 

Am I pulling this stuff out of my asshole? Maybe. There's so much symbolism at play here, so much cyclical relevance that it's impossible for me not to see everything in Morrison's Batman saga as an imperfect reflection of something else, a mirror cracked. I don't remember where I read it at this juncture, so I'm just gonna paraphrase and make it fancy, but I believe Morrison once said something to this effect: If everything that happened to Batman happened to a normal man, it would drive him insane. There's no way any one man could possibly stomach all the pain, all the loss, all the hardship. Unless… unless that man truly were Batman. Truly the Optimum Man, he could withstand impossible tragedy, overcome impossible obstacles. Hardship would meld him into something more. Anything less than the perfect mixture of these variables, these symbols, would create a madman, which is what the Heretic has become. An imperfect Batman.

 

 

In some ways, we know what's going to happen in next three issues of Batman Inc. It's Batman's voyage into the Inferno, the Dark Knight's dance of death at the end of the world. If you've ever read a comic by Grant Morrison, you know little is as it seems.  Even after so many Batman stories, Morrison is showing no signs of letting up or slowing down. This issue does a solid job of setting up what comes next, while still revealing the edges of a few aces up Morrison's sleeve.  

- Tyler Gross

 

FILIPE ANDRADE ON CAPTAIN MARVEL: STILL GREAT

 

Dark Avengers #189

 

 

Mara #4

 

 

FF #6

 

 

Manhattan Projects #11

 

 

Fantastic Four #7

 

 

Skullkickers #21

 

 

Morbius: The Living Vampire #4

 

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